DHB wins battle
Geraldine and Temuka doctors have lost a High Court battle with the South Canterbury District Health Board over after-hours funding.
Justice Whata ruled in favour of the health board and South Link Health, saying he did not believe the GPs had a "seriously arguable" case.
The GPs applied to the High Court for an interim injunction against the health board and South Link Health to get back funding held back since they terminated their after-hours roster.
In declining their application, Justice Whata said the GPs wanted full payment, while at the same time refusing to make or provide any form of after-hours services.
The Herald understands funding held back since the termination of after-hours care is about $12,000.
South Link Health sub-contracts services with each GP or practice, which allows it to meet its obligations with the DHB.
In his decision, Justice Whata said the GPs' application to recoup the funds withheld without restoring after-hours services had "a cake and eat it" quality, which did not readily attract the court's discretionary power to injunct.
However, he said the GPs might be able to argue that it was "inappropriate or disproportionate" of the DHB to reduce the amount it paid those doctors.
There was insufficient evidence to suggest the alternate fee paid to the GPs was reasonable in the circumstances, Justice Whata said..
GP Diana Scott, of Geraldine, and all doctors in Temuka terminated their shared on-call roster and after-hours services in August last year following a breakdown in funding negotiations with the DHB.
The move followed a health board review of the system used to allocate rural funds, which resulted in Temuka falling below the funding threshold.
GPs involved went to mediation with the board, which offered to continue paying the GPs the rural funding in full if primary care services resumed from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
The GPs declined the offer, which meant the funding did not resume.
A telephone triage service for after-hours care has since been established. A taxi service for people requiring a doctor at the weekends is also available, but has never been used. Both are still effective.
GPs spokesman Bryan Moore said he believed there were some "serious" problems with the outcome.
"The judge's rulings have created some serious issues and uncertainties. That's from our point of view."
He said the ruling was confusing and further advice was being sought.
"It's a sleeping dog at the moment. People are trying to find out what [the ruling] means."
Health board chief executive Chris Fleming said it was pleased with the outcome.
"While this finding is only in light of the interim injunction application, from our perspective this sends a very clear message that the arrangement the Temuka and Geraldine GPs (excluding Dr Moginie) have put in place . . . does not meet the contractual obligations."
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